NJ AT COMPLETED AND A CHANCE MEETING WITH A PHILLIES FAN

On Saturday, January 27, 2018 my son Mike aka Just Mike and I aka Condor 3 hiked the 14.5 mile New Jersey Section #5 of the Appalachian Trail (AT). This section was the last one I needed to complete the AT’s path through the Garden State. After parking one car at the Culvers Gap parking area off Sunrise Mountain Road, we drove around to park off Millbrook-Flatbrook Road near the AT crossing. The weather was in the 20s but the sky was clear with just a little mist which soon disappeared as the temperature rose. We headed northbound into the woods at 7:16am.

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The photo above shows the size disparity between my day pack on the left and Mike’s pack on the right. He wanted to put a little training element into this hike. After I lifted his pack to make a weight estimate, about 50-60 pounds, I asked if this was a similar amount of weight he carried while in the Army in Iraq. He said he carried a heavier pack overseas not counting the added weight of the ballistic vest protective equipment he had to put on before his pack. Most people would not want to put this much on their shoulders and then stand upright, much less be a soldier and fight. Mike, you are amazing and a great hiking buddy.

We had a fairly short climb up to the ridge-back of the mountain range. We came to a little area which appeared to be used for some camping. There was a large pile of boulders, or one single boulder, with the number “55” spray painted on it. I don’t know the significance, if any, of this marking.

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Our hike progressed crossing both the Blue Mountain Lakes Road and the orange marked Hemlock Pond Trail. There was a clear “N” and arrow in white paint on the road to ensure we did not miss the turn back into the woods as the AT doglegged a little off the road. Occasionally, the trail veered a little off the ridge-back where we noticed it was on the north side or the south side of the ridge. This gave us an opportunity to enjoy some vistas like Crater Lake which is near the Hemlock Pond trail.

We continued toward where the blue blazed Buttermilk Falls side trail crossed the AT. We made excellent time as we had covered 6.8 miles in just under three hours. We benefited by the AT trail going on a forest fire access pathway which was very smooth footing compared to the pointed rocky pathways we traversed on most of this section.

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On our way toward Rattlesnake Mountain, we took a short break and met three southbound hikers who had stayed for their first time in a shelter on the AT. The group was comprised of a grandfather, son and grandson. The son was wearing a shirt with the Philadelphia Phillies “P” on it and we had a nice chat. I am sorry I did not get their names or a photo to share. They were working out  hiking logistics before hoping to do some hiking from Springer Mountain in Georgia during the grandson’s Spring Break this year. The son asked about a water filter and I showed him my Sawyer mini system. We wished them well and we headed to our respective directions on the trail.

Much of this part of the AT stays very close to 1500 feet above sea level with little ups and downs of one to three hundred feet. We did not see any animals along the trail until I head some crows in the last few miles. It was unusual not even to see some squirrels.

Around 1pm we arrived at the side trail on the left which leads to the Brink Road Shelter. There was a sign to mark the turn. The trip to the shelter was about a quarter mile downhill and then back later so it added a half a mile to our travels. Side trail trips like this are called “sideways miles” and they don’t count for the AT mileage amounts. I like it better when the shelter is within site of the trail itself.

However, the slight diversion was worth it. The Brink Road Shelter was built in 2013 and was in excellent condition. Hats off to the trail maintainers. I signed the register and decided to take two five minute micro-naps on the bench inside the shelter while Mike was sitting at the nearby picnic table. This shelter has a privy, directions to a spring and is equipped with a bear box as this area has had problems with bears. That is my entry at the bottom of the page in the photo below. The usual trail register in a shelter is a standard black and white colored marble composition notebook. This was just a small notepad. I folded the page over before I left the shelter.

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We hiked back uphill to rejoin the trail and turned left to continue north. My AWOL AT Guide Book said that there was a blue and gray marked Jacobs Ladder Trail crossing in the next part of the trail, but I missed it somehow. We did see the gold and dark brown marked Acropolis Trail which began on our left around 14 miles into our hike.

We continued a fairly steep descent toward Rt. 206 and walked along the side of the road a short way before crossing at the corner of Rt. 206 and Rt. 636. The photo below shows the sign to indicate where we reentered the woods for the fairly short hike to get to the rear of the Culvers Gap parking area.

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I have now hiked a total of 221.3 miles of the AT [89.8 in New York (state completed), 71.9 in New Jersey (state completed), 43.8 in Connecticut (almost completed) and 15.8 in Pennsylvania. Thanks to Mike for hiking with me on many of these miles.

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UTAH WORLD CUP SPEED-SKATING AND BOBSLEDDING VIP TREATMENT

My son, Joel and I flew into Salt Lake City International on Thursday, December 7th, 2017 in preparation to attend the last Long Track Speed-skating World Cup Event before the Winter Olympics starts in February 2018 in Pyeongchang, South Korea. I spoke with Derek Parra, Sport Program Director for the Utah Olympic Legacy Foundation (UOLF), who won gold and silver speed-skating medals during the Winter Olympic Games hosted by Salt Lake City in 2002, and he explained that for the first time at an ISU(International Skating Union) event the organizers wanted to provide a VIP experience and seating area in the middle of the oval. I arranged to purchase VIP tickets for Joel and I. These tickets would entitle us to preferred parking near the Olympic Oval; free, catered buffet lunch with beverages (beer, wine, soda, hot chocolate and water); and a unique seating area set up by the UOLF in the middle of the skating oval. The VIP seating included high top tables, regular chairs around round tables, booths and leather sofas and chairs. Talk about comfort! The regular spectators sat in bleachers along the outside of the home stretch of the oval. The speed-skating events were scheduled for Friday, December 8th through Sunday December 10th.

After checking into the newly opened Marriott Residence Inn in West Jordan, Utah where we received the $99 per night World Cup rate, Joel and I looked forward to our first time seeing long track speed-skating in person.

DAY ONE

After the complimentary breakfast courtesy of Marriott, we enjoyed a dip in the indoor pool where I gave Joel a mini Total Immersion freestyle training session after which Joel enjoyed the hot whirlpool spa nearby.

Our drive from the hotel to the Olympic Oval in Kearns, UT took only about eight minutes through very easy traffic. Parking was free and our preferred parking area was right next to the sidewalk leading to the front entrance. We picked up our VIP passes on lanyards at the Hospitality Table. We were given a short tour by Jennifer Lippman, Development Director for the UOLF and we were set free to look around. Later, we would talk with Jennifer and a co-worker Michael Hopkins, Director of Group Sales for the UOLF, during the next three days. We told them that the event organization as well as the staff and volunteers were excellent. It obviously takes a great deal of coordination by many staff members to run a World Cup event involving athletes from many different foreign countries. The UOLF staff made us feel very cared for and special. We also found out that the UOLF was going to refund the fees we initially paid for the two VIP passes as they needed to structure this function as a private event. But despite the refund, we still got to enjoy the VIP treatment.

We got a chance to introduce ourselves to Derek Parra who was busy coordinating the first days events which were the Women’s and Men’s 500 meter sprints, the three skater team pursuit and the mass start races. Derek did a great job helping with announcements and firing t-shirts into the bleachers. A local elementary school made the trip to see the races as a school outing. The Foundation provided the kids with Thunder Sticks to help with their cheering. Spoiler Alert: The Japanese women speed-skaters are going to be a force at the South Korea Winter Olympics. They performed very well all three days.

The VIP seating area, as I mentioned before, had different seating options. Joel tried out the booth and I saw the obvious benefits of the leather chair. It was good to take a rest while the Zambonis were busy resurfacing the ice before the next event. We then stood up to cheer the athletes.

Various other guests arrived in this area while the caterers were setting up the buffet lunch and beverages. We saw the famous Olympic skater and now television analyst Dan Jansen. Thanks to Joel, we got a chance to speak to one of the greatest speed-skaters of all time-Bonnie Blair. We chatted about Cornwall where she lived a couple of months after she was born and Murray’s Skating Rink in Yonkers where her older siblings speed-skated. Bernadette, Michael, Joel and I skated short track for the Yonkers Skating Club at Murray’s Rink. We wish her daughter, Blair Cruikshank,  much luck in her upcoming attempt to make the Junior National Speed-skating Team. She is skating in the same distances as Bonnie did.

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Caterers set up macaroni and cheese, salad, cookies and all kinds of different beverages. Even the serving plates were not the cheap thin paper ones, they were rectangular and very stylish.

Since I like limes, I tried a Uinta beer with lime in it.

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After the pairs of skaters finished each event, young female volunteers, who were carrying trays with the medals and flowers, escorted the three medal winners right through our area to the podium for the medal ceremony.

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I had never seen mass start races on long track before and they were quite exciting. Instead of just one pair of skaters competing in two lanes, sixteen to twenty skaters were on the ice at the same time. I knew there was a possibility of some contact or falls when all the skaters donned their helmets. Both the men and women skated 16 laps for these events. I don’t know if this event will be held in South Korea but it would be a crowd-pleaser.

Joel and I ate dinner at a restaurant near the hotel and collapsed in bed. We had a busy schedule for day two.

DAY TWO

After breakfast I drove Joel to a trail-head in the northeastern corner of Salt Lake City so Joel could do a morning trail run. I got a chance to finish reading a book on my Kindle. This is Joel returning to the car with so much energy. Oh to be young.

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We drove to the Olympic Oval and arrived a little before the events started so we visited the various exhibits set up next to the warmup bicycles being used by the speed-skaters.

We experienced the marksmanship portion of the Biathalon event by firing a rifle equipped with a laser. We fired on targets and when we successfully hit the target, the dark circle turned on a green hit light. If you missed, the light shown as red. The staff were very patient and explained aspects of this event.

 

We moved over to a nearby bobsled and Joel sat in the display one. I was resting my joints for the real bobsled ride we would do later this day at Olympic Park in Park City, Utah. We then received instruction from two informative Curling athletes and they let us try sliding the heavy stones on a mock curling set up.

We went back to our seating area and the buffet was already set up. We greeted some of the same catering staff we had met yesterday. Today’s cuisine was chicken chili, southwestern salad, mini corn muffins and cobbler for desert.

Day Two’s events included the second 500 meter races and the 1500 meter races for both men and women. We could not stay until the very end as we needed time to drive the 45 minutes to Park City where we had reservations for 4:30pm to ride in a bobsled on the Olympic bobsled track.

We arrived at the customer service counter at Olympic Park, received our wrist bands for the bobsled and were free to explore the two levels of the museum in this building. We got to try to lay down on a luge and a skeleton sled. I can only imagine how fast their speeds must seem that low to the icy track. Joel is on the skeleton sled and I am on a single luge sled.

We also did a virtual ride on a para-sail over snow peaked mountains. This ride cost five dollars each but it was fun. The chair we rode in would move in synch with the big screen video. There were fans and snow makers to make the trip more exciting.

There were many interesting exhibits relating to the Salt Lake City winter games including some of the costumes used in the opening ceremony.

At 4:30pm, we attended our first safety briefing with the other 4:30pm amateur bobsledders before we were transported by bus to the finish line house on the Olympic course. The staff were very friendly and informative. They told us that the bobsled would be piloted by an experienced driver and that we would actually start just after Turn #5 and go to the end of the run past Turn #12 and the finish line. Actual Olympians, start at the top but, as the staff explained it, we chose to start the ride lower down so that the ride was more enjoyable. That’s code for not scaring the crap out of the paying guests. After getting fitted for our safety helmets and some additional safety briefing, we met our driver and rode along with our bobsled in the back of a truck up to the entry point for this ride.

Our sled was positioned for the start and we all got into our assigned seats. Other staffers then nudged the sledge forward down a short ramp onto the bobsled track. As it was, starting where we did, all of us experienced around four plus Gs and nearly 70 miles per hour. Let’s say I have a limited, first hand appreciation for what these amazing sliding event athletes must go through. Although our times are not kept by the World Bobsled Federation, I believe the sled I rode in along with a married couple from York, Pennsylvania had the fastest time among the five sleds which comprised the 4:30pm group. Joel rode in the back of the next sled after our sled. Anyone wanting to experience this thrilling ride should be prepared for a quick increase in speed and some vibration as the sled hurtles down the icy track. The G forces shove you down inside the sled as you go around these sharp turns. That’s me on the right side of our red colored Comet and that is Joel after he emerged from his sled. There are track video monitors visible so persons at the Finish House can see the sled going down the course as it approaches the finish area.

We ate at a local restaurant in Park City and then returned to the hotel.

DAY THREE

After breakfast again, we checked out and drove to a different trail head area so Joel could get a morning trail run in again. I got to start my new Kindle book and got a short nap on a beautifully sunny and cool morning.

Joel did some pretty serious elevation work up and down and shared these pictures with me. We returned to the Olympic Oval for our final day of races. We were hungry and looking forward to today’s buffet selection which included pulled pork sandwiches with soft rolls, salad and some delicious brownie type desserts.

Day Three events featured both the men’s and women’s 1000 meters, the women’s 3000 meters and the men’s 5000 meters events. We did not stay until the end as I wanted to have some time to return the rental car and get to the airport. I was flagged as Pre Checked by TSA so I went through the entire screening process in about forty seconds. I waved to Joel who was in the Disney-style roped cattle lanes. The Eagles were playing the Los Angeles Rams and I felt it was possible to see part of the game while having a meal in a restaurant at the airport. And that is exactly what happened. The Eagles won but starting quarterback Carson Wentz severely injured his knee and will have season ending surgery. We ate at a corner table and had a perfect view of the television.

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After the game ended, Joel and I went to his gate for a while before saying our goodbyes. Joel had a relatively short flight back to Seattle. I had a three-flight red eye to get me back to Stewart International Airport. I would arrive the next day around 10am on Monday.

I was able to upgrade my first flight to First Class from Salt Lake City to Phoenix for a reasonable fee. See the width of that seat and arm rest below. There was a blanket waiting for me. We were served beverages while waiting for the rest of the passengers to board the plane. I have never flown in First Class so I can check this off my list as well. Also, I found out that First Class passengers do not pay a baggage fee to check a bag since it is included with the first class fare.

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I paid a small fee to get an emergency aisle seat on the next leg of my return flight which was from Phoenix to Philadelphia. The configuration of the plane permitted me to extend my legs as there was no seat in front of me. The best extra thirty dollars I ever spent for a four hour and fifteen minute flight. I actually was able to fall asleep for a couple hours. There were many Eagles fans dressed in Eagles jerseys on this flight. I can only surmise they were returning from attending the game in Los Angeles earlier that afternoon.

I looked forward to getting home to Newburgh. Only one flight to go. However, after the short flight from Philadelphia to Newburgh, I noticed that my bag did not come around the baggage carousel. I don’t know how many flights my one checked bag had. Apparently someone in Phoenix sent it to Miami. Fortunately,  a very nice American Airlines counter person located the “delayed” bag in Miami and had it rerouted to Stewart. A courier delivered the bag to our house by 9 pm.

It was a wonderful trip filled with many firsts and with lasting memories. Thanks Bernadette for helping with the arrangements. Boy is that four person bobsled fast!

RAB

CAIRN SCULPTURE GARDENS, A GLACIER POND AND A TRAIL-HEAD ANGEL RN

On Saturday, November 4, 2017 my Pennsylvania hiking buddy, Betsy, and I finished New Jersey Appalachian Trail (AT) Section #6. This section is a 13.7 mile long segment which starts from the Pennsylvania side where the I-80 Bridge crosses the Delaware River to the Millbrook Road crossing of the AT in New Jersey. Since Betsy and I had already done the one mile over the bridge from the Delaware Water Gap to the Kittatinny Visitor Center parking area, we only had 12.7 miles to complete today. After Betsy parked her car at Kittatinny VC parking lot, she hopped in with me as I drove us along Old Mine Road before making a right turn onto Millbrook Road to park in a widened shoulder parking area near the AT crossing. There was a full moon last night and the morning mist was burning away. The temperature was perfect in the low 40s. The leaves were mostly yellow in color with not as much orange or red hues anymore.

We walked around an iron gate and headed southbound on the trail. We climbed about three hundred feet in elevation in the first 1.1 miles where we reached the Catfish Fire Tower. It is also called the Catfish Lookout Tower. The elevation here is about 1565 feet above sea level.

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After climbing up several sections of the tower’s steps, we were treated to wonderful views of the valleys on each side of the ridge-line. We could even see in the far distance the High Point Monument on High Point Mountain.

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We continued hiking along the ridge-line. Sometimes the AT meandered slightly from the exact ridge-line by proceeding along rocky ledges on the southern side of the ridge-line. Hikers have to be very careful with foot placement in these areas. The drop off over the cliff is very steep.

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After descending four hundred feet and having hiked about 3.2 miles, we came to the Camp Road (gravel) crossing which leads to the Mohican Outdoor Center (MOC). In this direction, hikers would turn right to head to the MOC.

Since we were not staying there and did not need to visit, we continued south across a small bridge over a smaller stream.

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We climbed back up four hundred feet and began following the ridge-line again until we passed the Kaiser Trail intersection which heads west off the AT. About six tenths of mile past this intersection we passed a sign indicating the start of the Worthington State Forest.

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We reached the Kittatinny Mountain Rocky Summit which was 5.6 miles into this day’s hike. There were about fifteen different hikers and Audubon Society type bird watchers. At least one had a clipboard which I presume was used to keep a tally on the numbers and species of birds seen.

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We took a break here and sat on some of the huge pile of boulders which adorned the top of the mountain. My wife Bernadette wanted to make sure that I gave Betsy some of Bernadette’s favorite power bars for when we hike at the Mohonk Preserve. So I gave Betsy two of them.

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We left the bird watchers to their counting and continued south again, past a power-line right of way and then began a slow descent as we saw several bodies of water to our left. The first was Lower Yards Creek Reservoir which was followed by the noticeably smaller Upper Yards Creek Reservoir. At the 7.3 mile mark we reached the northern end of the Sunfish Pond which is a pond created by retreating glaciers.

The trail hugging near the northern shoreline of this pond was very difficult due to the many loose and fixed pointed rocks we had to step onto and around. Although we only had about a half a mile to get to the southern end of the pond, it was tough walking.

However, the effort required was made more bearable by the beautiful views across the pond and by the occasional rock cairn sculpture garden which had been created in several different locations along the waters edge. I am used to seeing small rock cairns which usually mark a trail when there are no blazes or other man made signage but some of these cairn gardens were just for the artistic appreciation of passing hikers.

We had a nice bench seat on the south end of the pond and we rested briefly there. A couple of dogs came and drank from the pond as their hiking masters waited nearby.

We were two thirds of the way done our hike and I wanted to get the last 4.3 miles done in less than two hours. We started heading south and enjoyed the gradual descent which continued as we passed the Backpacker Campsite kiosk. The Douglas Trail intersects at this junction with the AT.

Some hikers were already set up to camp overnight at this location which had a privy nearby.

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Thereafter, the trail seemed to get much less rocky and, at times, was close to walking on a soft bed of fallen leaves. Trail maintainers had even placed some flat rocks in step configurations to help the climb down (or the climb up for northbounders). Betsy captured me heading down one set of the rock stairs.

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Our descent continued to where the Dunnfield Trail intersects with the Dunnfield Creek which was on our left hand side. Many persons were enjoying the area and the large boulders and cliff faces around the creek gave this whole area the feeling of being in a gorge.

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A couple in their 30s, who were walking northbound on the trail, stopped us to ask how far it was to the Sunfish Pond. We explained that it was about four miles, all uphill, to reach the southern part of the pond. Betsy and I noticed that neither person had a bottle of water or any backpack for supplies. It was already 4:30pm and the sun was getting low on the horizon. The couple smartly decided they would just hike for an hour and then turn around and come back.

After descending about 1100 feet in the past four miles, we crossed a small bridge over the Dunnfield Creek.

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We finally reached the Dunnfield Trail-head circular parking area next to the I-80 access road. We then turned left for a short walk before turning right to go underneath I-80 and another right to return to Betsy’s car in the Kittatinny Visitor Center parking lot. Although I don’t remember exactly how I phrased my words, I said something to Betsy like “Do you know where your car keys are?” and Betsy said she did. She replied that they were in the cup-holder in my car back at the parking area at the start of our hike. Oops.

Betsy bailed us out big time because in short order Betsy stepped in front of an SUV driven by a young woman who had just finished a local trail hike herself. As the lady driver was just heading out the parking lot driveway, Betsy explained our predicament. The SUV driver, Liz, said the three words I wanted to hear – “Sure, hop in.” Incredible. If I was alone, I think I would have been there a long time trying to get a ride. Now, as kind as Liz was in her AT trail angel role, the whole story gets even better. Betsy and Liz started talking in the front as Liz drove the fifteen minutes along Old Mine Road back toward my car. Liz explained that she worked as a nurse in a hospital in New Jersey. She specialized in doing some intervention procedures. I interrupted her by asking if she helped do lung biopsy procedures and she said she did. I explained about my cancer and Liz said she was getting the chills listening to my story. What are the odds that this person was the one to help us out. Thank you Liz. Liz dropped us off at my car and this adventure capped another scenic section hike with Betsy. Betsy found her keys and I drove her back to her car. This was our longest hike so far.

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More to come. But first some rest.

I have now hiked a total of 206.8 miles of the AT [89.8 in New York (state completed), 57.4 in New Jersey (almost done, only section #5 left to do), 43.8 in Connecticut and 15.8 in Pennsylvania].

RAB

 

 

 

CULVERS GAP TO HIGH POINT AND MIKE LAND NAVIGATION STONES (AKA RANGER BEADS)

On Saturday October 7, 2017 my son, Mike, and I hiked Appalachian Trail (AT) New Jersey Section #4 which is a fourteen mile section from Culvers Gap to High Point State Park. After leaving Mike’s car at the designated AT parking lot off Rt. 23, we drove in my car to the Culvers Gap AT parking lot off Sunrise Mountain Road. We headed northbound at 6:36am. As it was still dark, I set my headlamp on the brightest setting to be able to hike safely.

We started about a five hundred foot ascent past a telephone/radio antenna building before reaching the Culver Fire Tower. We climbed about fifty steps up the tower to enjoy the view. The upper most platform was blocked off but we enjoyed the view back  toward Lake Kittatinny and Culver Lake where we had begun. Mike noticed the No Trespassing sign on one side of the tower.

After climbing back down the tower, we hiked a mile to the Gren Anderson Shelter. This shelter was named after Gren Anderson who was a trail maintainer in the 1940s-50s. The side trail for this shelter is the intersection with the Stony Brook Trail marked with brown signs. There were two solo hikers at the shelter, one of whom had erected his tent on the shelter platform last night. I signed the shelter register and chatted briefly with one of the hikers who was using four off days to hike parts of the AT in New Jersey before he began a new job.

After another hour plus of hiking we arrived at the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) Pavilion located near Sunrise Mountain. There was a group of about five bird watchers who were keeping count of birds of prey sightings.

One of the bird watchers pointed out the High Point War Memorial which could be seen with the naked eye sticking up in the distance about ten miles away along the ridge-back of the Kittatinny Mountain. I also photographed another Geodetic Control Survey Station Elevation Reference Marker which was fastened into the top of a beveled concrete pillar. It indicated an elevation of 1653.264′ above sea level (asl). It is the second highest point in New Jersey (second only to High Point which is about 1700′ asl).

We continued north, leaving Sunrise Mountain, and were directed by carved markings on a downed tree to our right. This was the intersection with a blue and a brown and red colored side trail with the AT.

Around this time, Mike used some of his Army Land Navigation skills by improvising a “Ranger Beads” pace counter using small stones along the trail. The theory is that you count the paces you take for 100 meters. He would move one stone out of his hand into his pocket. He would repeat this for the next 100 meters, etc. until he got to 1000 meters, aka a kilometer, and then would have a separate way to count the kilometers covered while he reset his counting system for the 100 meter increments. This way Mike could calculate how far we have traveled even without any convenient landmarks. I hope I explained this right Mike! You are amazing.

After crossing Crigger Road, we arrived at the Mashipacong Shelter. Inside the shelter, affixed to a support beam, was a hand drawn color painting of this shelter. Unknown artist.

After I made an entry in the shelter register, we made the sharp turn around the corner of the shelter to continue north. Someone had added directional information on the two white blazes painted on the corner of the masonry walled shelter.

Ten minutes later we crossed Deckertown Turnpike which had a nearby parking area. About forty minutes later we crossed a buried natural gas pipeline right of way and I captured the view down into the valley.

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Another two miles of ups and downs, with a little random walking on wooden plank puncheon sections or a similarly purposed placed boulder puncheon, and we arrived at the side trail marking the Rutherford Shelter.

As the trip to the shelter was .5 miles downhill, and then the same back up, I decided it was not worth the energy expenditure for a sideways mile hike. Mike would have done it with me if I wanted to see that shelter. However, it was now almost 2pm and I wanted to finish the last three miles which I was sure had more ups and downs to test my endurance. The ups and downs were not very long but they seemed to be frequent. I underestimated these when I reviewed the AT map and I also did not realize that much of this section was similar to a lot of the pointed, rocky trails seen in Pennsylvania.

It took almost two hours to complete the last three miles but finally we came to the signs for the side trail to the AT hiker parking lot off Rt. 23. There was a concrete-filled cast iron hitching post nearby this trail intersection.

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After a six minute hike through woods, we arrived at the parking area and the wonderfully refreshing air conditioning afforded by Mike’s car.

I realized that I have hiked farther in one day on only two other occasions but I was hiking solo on those day hikes. It is much more fun to hike with Mike. Mike has hiked more than 85 miles of the AT with me so far. Thanks again Mike.

During my 19 separate hiking days, whether solo or with hiking companions, I have now hiked a total of 194.1 miles of the AT- 89.8 in New York (completed), 44.7 in New Jersey, 43.8 in Connecticut and 15.8 in Pennsylvania. Another way to look at this, since the entire length of the AT is about 2,188 miles, I have less than 2,000 miles to go!

More hikes to plan but first some Vitamin I.

Condor 3

PARIS & HEART OF NORMANDY RIVER CRUISE

Bernadette and I celebrated our 40th Anniversary by traveling on an eight day/seven night Viking River Cruise in France. The cruise is named the Paris & Heart of Normandy cruise. We were extra happy that our son, Michael, and our daughter-in-law Emily could join us on the cruise.

After a three hour departure delay caused by the nearby hurricane, we flew from JFK International on an Air France A380 which is the two story jet with a curving staircase on it. We were seated in the economy section downstairs but it was a huge jet which could accommodate more than 500 passengers. We arrived in Paris around 11am and were shuttled to the ship named the Viking Rinda which was docked along the Seine River in Le Pecq.  Two large stone figures adorned the bridge near our ship.

While Bernadette and I went on a guided leisurely walk to the nearby town of Saint-Germain-en-Laye, Mike and Emily discovered the train ride to Paris is only a half hour. They got an early jump on exploring Paris.

Day Two featured a full day, guided excursion with some stops for walking through Paris where we saw many of the world famous landmarks like the Arc-de-Triomphe, the Champs-Elysees, the Louvre and the Cathedral of Notre Dame. Here is one of the largest stain glassed windows in the Gothic styled Notre Dame.

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We walked away from the touristy area near Notre Dame and Bernadette found a small  local restaurant named Cave A Vins which according to the sign translates to Wine Cellar Restaurant. There was an attached store selling wine and the cashier would run back and forth between the register there and the kitchen to help the chef with lunches.

After lunch we regrouped with our tour guide in front of City Hall and then rode toward the park next to the Eiffel Tower. Along the way I noticed that some of the bridges that use to have the padlocks on the sides now had plexiglass to keep couples from fastening a padlock and throwing the key into the Seine River. We had seen several of these “padlocked” bridges on our prior cruise in Paris.

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We arrived at the park surrounding the Eiffel Tower.  I took the photo on the right to get a different perspective of the tower. There was a heightened sense of security and one of the entrances was closed to the public so that all persons trying to walk up the tower had to go through more enhanced security searches at a different entrance.

We returned to the ship for dinner and our Captain cast off for the city of Vernon.

Day Three

The Viking staff always tried to care for our needs and did so in a friendly manner. Here are a couple of the chefs who agreed to pose with Super Squirrel who was a stow-a-way inside Emily’s pocketbook. I am going to miss my made to order omelet each morning.

After passing through some locks during breakfast, we arrived in Vernon around 8am. Today’s included morning tour was a easy three kilometer ride to Giverny which was the home village of Claude Monet. Monet was born in Paris in 1840, moved to England for a period of time, before returning to France and buying the large house and two acres of gardens in Giverny in 1883. This town became a mecca for impressionist painters. The tour included a wonderful walk through Monet’s Japanese-inspired pond and bamboo forest.

Our guide pointed out a large Copper Beech tree which happens to be the same kind of tree next to our house in our neighbors John and Joyce’s yard.

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Next, we walked along Monet’s many flower beds which are immaculately maintained by gardeners hired by the Foundation which now supervises this property.

The end of the tour involved walking through Monet’s house and I took some photos out the upstairs window in Monet’s master bedroom.

Day Four

This is the official day of our 40th Wedding Anniversary. We left Vernon at 3am on our trip to Rouen. Rouen is an important city in Normandy history as it is the site where Joan of Arc was tried for heresy and burned at the stake in the Old Market Square in 1431. There was a tall cross with an embedded sword and a statue of Joan of Arc outside a small chapel.

We entered the chapel where our guide provided us some more information about this time in history. Joan of Arc had been charged with witchcraft, heresy and dressing like a man. She was convicted after a lengthy trial and was burned at the stake in May 1431. Actually she suffocated to death after the first burning but her remains had to be burned in a couple of additional fires until everything was incinerated.

Joan of Arc was canonized in 1920 and has been considered one of history’s greatest saints and an enduring symbol of French unity and nationalism.

Across from the Joan of Arc site is the oldest restaurant in France. It is the La Courrone which was established 1345. Our guide on the walking tour explained that Julia Childs ate at this very restaurant which led to her decision to bring French cuisine to America. She had reportedly returned to the same restaurant many times. Patrons today can order what Julia Childs first ordered. I think you would be served Chicken Cordon Bleu.

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While walking through Rouen’s streets there was a group of peaceful protestors, dressed in similar one piece outfits, who were holding up signs protesting something involving chickens.

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One of the famous landmark’s in Rouen is the two sided clock located on an arch across the Rue du Gros-Horloge.  All the cobblestone streets add to the charm of walking in this town.

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The mechanism for this clock was made in 1389. If I understood the guide correctly, there is just one hand and the other moving parts on the face of the clock indicate times of the day, etc. It is also an astronomical clock as well.

To celebrate our 40th anniversary, we decided to make reservations for La Courrone. We were lucky that our new friends, Sandy and Jamie, could join Mike and Emily so that the six of us could enjoy this unique restaurant.

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When we got back to our ship, our cabin staff person had fashioned towels into swans for us.

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Day Five

Breakfast was served a little earlier for those passengers who wished to take one of the included tours to either Omaha Beach and the American cemetery in Normandy or to Juno Beach and the Commonwealth cemeteries (Canadian and British). Since I had already been to the American cemetery on a prior trip, I chose the Commonwealth option.

During the one and a half hour trip toward the Normandy beaches, we made a stop at a museum which housed historical tapestries from the Middle Ages. The hand painted scenes depicted historical events across many years.

We then had an arranged lunch at the 6th of June Restaurant in Arromanches-les-Bains, Normandy. Next stop was the Canadian Museum located at Juno Beach which is the site of the Canadian soldiers landing on D-day. The museum was very informative and I had time to walk down and onto Juno Beach. Juno Beach sits between Gold and Sword beaches which were the British landing sites. These beaches are just a little east of Omaha and Utah beaches used by the American soldiers on D-day.

We boarded our bus for the trip to the Canadian Cemetery in Beny-sur-Mer, Normany. The tour guide provided roses to Canadian citizens on this tour so they could leave a rose at the marker of their choice.

All of the grave markers for the Canadian soldiers had a rounded top but there was a lone marker in the shape of a cross. The cross marked the grave of a French resistance fighter who fought and died with the Canadian soldiers.

Our next destination was the Pegasus Bridge and museum which was in recognition of the British 6th Airborne Division who used wooden glider planes to land quietly near certain bridges during the night just before the early morning D-day invasion. Although the current Pegasus Bridge is not the same as the one during WWII, we walked a short way to the museum where the original bridge was located as an outdoor exhibit. Anyone who has seen the movie “The Longest Day” can recall the scenes where the British land in these wooden gliders and capture strategic bridges from German control in the hours shortly before the main D-day landing. The Pegasus Bridge is one of the strategic bridges and the original bridge was still in place when the movie was made. There were only two German soldiers on guard at the bridge which was captured quickly by the British paratroopers.

 

Also at the museum is a full size wooden glider plane like the ones used by the soldiers. Three planes, each holding 30 paratroopers, landed to secure Pegasus Bridge and another three gliders filled with 90 paratroopers landed nearby to capture another bridge.

Our final stop was a short visit to the British Cemetery in Ranville, Normandy. Our guide pointed out some distinctive things at this cemetery. One was the marker for a 16 year old soldier who was the youngest soldier in this cemetery.

Further, there was a section of this cemetery which had different shaped head stones. These marked the graves of German soldiers who were buried nearby. This particular one did not bear a name. The inscription, translated into English, means simply  “A German Soldier”.

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During dinner on the ship the staff prepared special desserts which were served with bright sparklers to each table. Emily and Sandy are sampling the desserts.

Day Six

We cast off from Rouen bound for Les Andelys. The ride on these Viking ships is so smooth while we enjoyed beautiful views of nearby towns and houses along the Seine.

Jamie introduced me to a retired Air Force pilot who came up to see our daytime passage through a lock.

We were given access for a short tour of the the Viking Rinda’s Bridge and were able to ask questions of the captain. Bernadette took our photo as we all fit inside the bridge.

After lunch, we did the guided walking tour in Les Andelys.  Emily and I posed behind wooden figures of King Richard I better known as Richard the Lionhearted and his Queen. Mike took our photo, Bernadette was shopping.

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Patrick, our guide, stopped at a statue of  Jean Pierre Blanchard located in a square next to a church. Patrick explained that most French people, if asked who Jean Pierre Blanchard is, would not know the significance of this person. Blanchard was a French inventor and a pioneer in balloon flight. He was born in Les Andelys and that is why his statue is placed here.

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Blanchard, along with an American physician, made the first aerial crossing of the English Channel in 1785. When Blanchard made the first crossing, the balloon kept losing altitude so Blanchard threw some ballast out of the basket. He threw out the anchor too. The balloon rose again but later began to descend prematurely so the only thing that Blanchard had to get rid of were his clothing. He took everything off, the balloon rose long enough to make it to land. Blanchard was naked when persons came to congratulate him. Blanchard would later pilot balloon flights in different countries around the world.

The second half of this afternoon tour was a hike up to the Chateau Gaillard which was a fort built in the 12th Century by King Richard I. The view down to the river was beautiful. Here I am standing by some of the remains of the nearly 1,000 year old castle which featured a series of dry moats to keep intruders from storming the castle.

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Following King Richard’s death, a French King and his soldiers ultimately figured out a way to enter the castle after surrounding the castle’s inhabitants for many months.

After a short walk back downhill into Les Andelys, we had dinner while our ship cast off for a return to Le Pecq, which was our starting point near Paris.

Day Seven

Our final day was spent relaxing on the ship’s upper deck reading and we enjoyed the final dinner with our new friends, Sandy and Jamie.

Mike and Emily were able to tour the Opera House in Paris and then later returned to Paris to see the Eiffel Tower lit up at night. Here is a photo taken by Emily. This was way past our bedtime.

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Day Eight

After breakfast, we finished packing and Emily took our last photo on the ship.

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Bernadette said this was her BEST VACATION EVER. Bernadette and I have shared 40 years worth adventures together and these trips are great ways to enjoy our retirement. I love you Bernadette.

 

 

 

 

 

 

BOEING JETS, KING CRAB LEGS AND NORTHERN CASCADE GIANTS

I visited our son, Joel, who lives in Issaquah, Washington which is a little east of Seattle. We accomplished many goals set for the five day trip and Day One began with spending a day at the Boeing Museum of Flight which is located south of Seattle. Despite having been to Seattle more than six times previously, I never was able to fit this into my schedule.

The museum is spread over a huge area and it is filled with Boeing jets and exhibits concerning man’s early efforts of flight up through space flight. This was a well laid out museum and we got to sit inside the cockpits of some fighter jets and to walk on a mock up of the Space Shuttle used for cargo planning of missions.

The exhibits included both military and commercial passenger planes and space vehicles. I walked onto a Concorde which debuted in a race against a regular passenger jet plane. The race was set up as follows: The regular jet would leave the airport in Paris and would fly to Logan Airport in Boston. At the same time the regular jet left Paris, the Concorde left Logan Airport en route to Paris. After landing at Paris, the Concorde then took off and headed back to Logan Airport. The Concorde beat the regular jet back to Logan by eleven minutes. Now that is a debut!

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We also were able to board some of the older Boeing commercial passenger planes and it was funny how spacious the seating was in the coach areas of the plane. Look how much leg room I have. This was not the First Class section. There were even pull down ash trays between all the seats.

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After the museum, we stopped to visit with some of Joel’s co-workers at Boeing Employee Credit Union and then it was off to Seattle to enjoy some seafood. I have always wanted to try Alaskan King Crab legs like the ones caught in traps on the Deadliest Catch television series. We went to Elliott’s Oyster House on Pier 56 in Seattle where we had a nice view of Puget Sound and I thoroughly enjoyed eating steamed Dutch Harbor King Crab legs. I had three of them. I was glad for the bib they provided as it was my first time using the crab leg cracker to help open up the outer shell to get to the meat inside. Dipped in butter, I pigged out.

Day Two started early as we had planned a three day/two night back-country hiking and camping trip in the Northern Cascade Mountains. The particular starting point for this journey was the North Fork Sauk Trail Head which was about a two and a half hour drive from Joel’s house. We loaded up our packs with all we needed. Joel carried his lightweight MSR two person tent which would be home for Joel, Joel’s trail running dog, Luna, and myself. Joel has hiked or trail run many different parts of the Central Cascade and Northern Cascade mountains and I have wanted to experience this area for some time. We also wanted to test different equipment we brought for the camping part of the trip.

After driving down a gravel Forest Service Road for miles deep into the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, we finally arrived at the parking area for the North Fork Sauk Trail Head. Our original plan was to hike about ten to eleven miles up to a tent site at White Mountain Pass. We would then continue a circular hike for another eleven miles on the middle day before sleeping at another camp site. This would be followed by a third hiking day of about the same distance to get us back to our original trail head. Overall, it would be about thirty miles to do what is called the Pilot Ridge Loop Trail. Part of this route would follow the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) which runs from the Mexico/California southern terminus, northward through California, Oregon and Washington up to the Canadian border. The PCT is about five hundred miles longer than the Appalachian Trail.

Before starting I used the restroom located at the parking area. I noticed that the toilet paper rolls were hung on a metal bar that was padlocked on each side. I guess it was to keep persons from stealing the whole rolls. I had never seen this before but Joel explained this is typical for Washington State.

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After departing from the trail head we entered a beautiful, old growth forest of gigantic trees. Luna was equipped with her own backpack which held some of her food and snacks. Luna looked at Joel for the go ahead signal and off she went.

I have never visited Sequoia National Forest in California but this must be similar to what that forest is like. I did not know that the Cascade Mountains had these massive trees. There were gigantic red cedar, Douglas fir and other species of trees in this densely wooded forest.

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We walked underneath one gigantic tree which was so large and was angled such that it did not need to be cut. Joel pretended to hold up this tree.

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There were some other dead fall trees which had fallen across the hiking path. Maintainers had used massive chainsaws to cut sections away to clear the path.

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We counted some of the growth rings on the trees which were more than two hundred years old by our estimate. When looking up, the trees were so tall it was almost impossible to see the top of the tree. The first part of our hike was through these woods and started to gain altitude as we crossed some small streams by rock hopping. In some cases we used man-made bridges to cross larger streams such as Red Mountain Creek which is located just past a small tent site clearing about 4.5 miles into our hike.

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Virtually all of the trails were pine needle covered and were relatively rock and root free. My feet enjoyed the comfort of the cushioned path when compared to the pointy rocks along the Pennsylvania sections of the Appalachian Trail I had experienced just a week ago.

 

We walked in and out of the shaded forest a couple of times and could see amazing vistas of area mountains, some of which still had snow on them. Absolutely stunning.

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We then reached the six-mile mark where we saw the Mackinaw Shelter camping area on our right. Take a look at this “shelter”. The old hiker with the white shirt (me) is standing vertically when compared to the lean of the shelter. I guess a hiker choosing to sleep inside this shelter would have to be really desperate and really tired. There was no sleeping platform.

Rustic elegance aside, we wanted to continue our journey upward. The real steep climbing was to begin now. The trail climbed about two thousand feet in elevation during the next three miles on a trail that featured some very narrow and steep switchbacks. A horseback rider even used this trail and we shimmied off to the side enough for the horse and rider to get by. The rider said he only needed six inches to get by but if the horse bumped my pack, I would have fallen a long way before coming to a stop. We found an area which permitted more than six inches of safety clearance. I am sorry I did not take any photos for you horse fans. Think really big with a cowboy riding.

After climbing for another three miles and about two thousand feet in elevation we were just at the tree line which was a little under 5,000′ above sea level. Naked of trees, the ridge line was visible above us and the rock bordered switchbacks leading upward were easily visible. As it was getting later in the day and now the sun was becoming a factor, I decided that it was time for me to descend. I did not think that I had the energy to continue to our first planned camping area. In hindsight, it was a smart move. Joel was a wonderful hiking partner as usual and helped motivate me up some of the steepest parts but I knew that we could shorten the hike to a two-day adventure and still accomplish my goals of hiking in the northern cascades. Joel looked so fresh he could have hiked all thirty miles in one day!

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So despite being about 750 vertical feet short of the ridge line, we turned around and headed three miles back down the mountain to the aforementioned Mackinaw Shelter camping area. We had hiked about twelve miles on our first day and had done about 5,000′ in up and down elevation change. We did not exactly slack off. A couple of younger hikers heading uphill passed us as we descended. My legs were starting to feel pretty tired but I knew the end was nearing. Even Luna would rest in a small circle of shade on the sunny sides of the switchbacks if we stopped briefly to talk with other hikers. Luna did very well.

Arriving back at the Mackinaw Shelter camping area, Joel picked out a good tent site near a lean-to composed of some branches. Joel hung our packs on the branches here. There was a nearby stream which was perfect for using our Sawyer water filter to refill our bottles and to get some water for dinner.

As we were resting at the campsite, many hikers were arriving and setting up camp for the night. Their plan was to hike the first six miles, sleep over night at the Mackinaw site in order to get some rest, before heading up the steep part of the mountain in the early morning of the next day when their legs were fresh and the temperature was low.

After dinner, Joel hung up our food bag away from our sleeping area. Joel’s lightweight MSR two person tent had matching doors on each side of the tent so no one had to climb over anyone else in order to get in/out of the tent. Joel stuffed a small stuff sack with a jacket so I had a mini pillow for sleeping. Luna tucked into the bend behind my knees for the whole night. As there was no rain in the forecast, we did not set up the rain fly over the top of the tent. Therefore, we had the protection from bugs of the screen while enjoying the views straight up into the narrowing canopy of the old growth trees. What a view. The photo on the right is the view I had while lying on my back and looking toward the sky.

Luna was like a traveling intruder alarm as she would stir if a late arriving hiker came too close to our tent. She would stir a little until the unknown person gave us a wider berth and then we all returned to sleep. Fortunately we had no large wildlife encounters during the night despite seeing some bear scat along the trail during the day.

Day Three– We arose early the next morning. I filtered some more water and Joel heated the water for breakfast. Packing was very easy and we began the six-mile hike back down to our original trail head parking area. As we hiked we passed many hikers who were just arriving and were in the early stages of their Labor Day weekend hike. My legs were still a little sore from the prior day but we moved at a pretty good clip on the way back. We stepped out-of-the-way for another horse with a rider who was heading deeper into the forest.

Our two back country day trip of 18 miles was shorter than originally planned but still was perfect. We took about 37,000 steps during the hike. We drove westward out of the national forest through the nearby local towns of Darrington, Oso and finally into Arlington, where we came to the Burger Barn. Joel recommended this stop for a cheeseburger which, along with the fries, was very tasty.

After the burger, we started driving back toward home. Luna must have felt left out sleeping in her rear area in Joel’s Subaru, so she squeezed past the safety partition and curled up next to Joel’s pack on the middle seat. Luna rested her head on Joel’s pack. She was soon asleep.

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We finished the trip back to Joel’s house and, after a short nap (which is mandatory for retirees like me), we went to a local Issaquah pub where I could have delicious Pacific salmon. If you have only tasted Atlantic salmon, as I had for years before having Pacific salmon in Seattle, you don’t know what you are missing.

While at dinner Joel said that he has always wanted to drive a Tesla electric car. He knew of an owner whose car was parked at a nearby parking garage and Joel made arrangements to rent the car for one day. The car was a Tesla Model X which is their SUV like crossover model.

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Day Four started with Joel making me pancakes with fresh blueberries and maple syrup for breakfast. We drove to pick up the Tesla which was unlocked wirelessly by the owner using his cell phone. Joel retrieved the “key” fob. There are no keys on the fob which is shaped and designed just like the shape and design of the Tesla. Picture a matchbox sized Tesla without the wheels. I then followed Joel, who was driving the Tesla, so we could drop Joel’s car off at his house. We spent some time getting familiar with the Model X. It has seats for six persons and the front passenger doors open as most doors do. The middle seat doors open with falcon wing-shaped doors. As Joel pointed out, these are not gull wing doors like the Delorean vehicle featured in the “Back to the Future” movies since the Tesla door articulates like a Falcon’s wing.  Only the Model X has these style doors. It was a beautifully designed car and this particular model had a battery which could provide about a 220-230 mile range before needing to be recharged. The time to go from zero to sixty mph is just a few seconds and the engine is relatively quiet when compared to a traditional gas-powered engine. Just taking your foot off the accelerator acted like a brake. You hardly needed to use the break pedal. There was ample leg room and as I got out of the middle seat, somehow the button on the remote control was pushed accidentally before I cleared from the area beneath the falcon’s wing. Ouch. It hit me in the head and I believe Joel captured most of this on a Go Pro video camera. Of course he did.

After the stars cleared from my noggin, we used the car for a sightseeing trip along I-90 to Snoqualmie Pass in the Central Cascade Mountains which is just a half hour east from Issaquah. It was a beautiful sunny day with a pure blue sky and we stopped at a restaurant parking area where hikers along the Pacific Crest Trail were walking north or southbound across the road crossing. While we were taking photos posing by the Tesla in the parking lot, a man came over to see the Tesla. We got to talking and he said he brought his daughter to meet up with her fiance who was taking a short break while hiking on the PCT. He explained that his daughter was visiting a while before returning to graduate school in upstate New York. I asked where she was going to school and he said Poughkeepsie. She goes to Marist College. Imagine the coincidence of traveling that far away and bumping into someone whose daughter goes to Marist.

We headed back to Joel’s house in the Tesla and Joel gave rides in the Tesla to some of his friends from his neighborhood. I chose to take a late afternoon nap before going to a 40th Anniversary showing of “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” which is one of my all time favorite movies. We saw it at a local, stadium seating styled theater with a gigantic screen. It was not as big as an Imax screen but it was close. It was the perfect setting to see this movie. Thanks Bernadette for conspiring with Joel to surprise me with this movie idea.

Day Five began with a trip to a car wash for the Tesla and a return to a park and ride. Photos of the car were sent to the owner who then locked the car wirelessly. It was a lot of fun to ride in the Tesla. I don’t plan on buying any more vehicles in my lifetime but, if I needed to, I would certainly consider an all electric car, even if it is not a Tesla. For those who are interested, Joel said that Tesla is coming out with an economy priced Model 3 soon. It will be priced about $35,000 for the basic version.

Joel took me back to SeaTac airport and I took the red eye flight through Detroit back to Stewart International. It was a wonderfully busy five days and Joel was the perfect host. Now I have to rest up before my trip to the Mohonk. Oh the life of retirement.

 

 

 

 

WOLF ROCKS SCRAMBLING, ENORMOUS SPIDER WEB AND GIGANTIC ADIRONDACK CHAIR

On Sunday, August 20, 2017 my Pennsylvania hiking partner Betsy and I completed the Pennsylvania Appalachian Trail (AT) Section #1 by doing the 8.5 mile section from Wind Gap, Pa to Fox Gap, Pa. We had already done the northern 7.3 mile piece from Fox Gap to the Delaware Water Gap I-80 Bridge. The weather was mostly blue skies and the temps started out in the mid 60s. We parked my car at the Rt. 191, Fox Gap AT crossing and then rode in Betsy’s car to the Wind Gap parking area. The AT crossing is well marked with the sign below and we headed northbound around 7:30am.

As soon as you enter the woods you begin climbing about 500 feet up a series of stone steps on Blue Mountain which is part of the Kittatinny Mountain Range. After only a tenth of a mile we came upon this sign and we had to be quiet as there was a sleeping hiker in a tent just a short distance away.

We continued up until we reached the ridge line of the mountain and began walking for miles on thousands upon thousands of small pointy rocks. My health monitor on my I-phone said I took more than 25,000 steps in case you think I am exaggerating. Although I tried to find a flat area of dirt between the rocks for my size 12 hiking shoes, I was usually unsuccessful. My 238 pounds was supported by the one inch square of the top of a rock point. I would then transfer this piercing support to the bottom of my other foot with my next stride. Repeat as necessary til end of hike. Ouch. Here is what miles of the trail looked like in just this one photo.

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Betsy took photos of various shapes and colors of mushrooms and we saw many areas of the colorful coral fungi next to the trail.

I knew we were the first hikers on this section as my trekking pole was breaking up many cob webs. In less than a half hour I came upon the largest spider web I have ever seen on the AT. After photographing it, I tried as carefully as I could to just move the lowest anchor point for the web to just off the trail so we could pass. I figured I could save some of the rebuilding effort for the spider. This was one industrious arachnid.

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After crossing a private gravel road we noticed an AT sign on a stone at the base of a tree and we continued heading north.

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Twice during the next hour we noticed two of the round AT markers in the middle of the trail. What surprised me was that neither one had any unique numbering system to differentiate these markers from those placed elsewhere. I took their photos to research this further.

A little less than four hours into our hike I noticed this sign which faced the southbound hikers.

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We were heading northbound and did not see any warning sign but at least we made it unscathed past these wasps. Thanks to the unknown AT Ridgerunner for trying to keep hikers safe.

Occasionally, the path would change to more of a dirt composition which gave our feet a huge break but our hopes were usually buoyed for just a brief period of time. And the ever present root or other tripping hazard kept us honest and focused on placing our feet carefully each time.

After about 6.4 miles  we scrambled up some larger boulders to an area known as Wolf Rocks. My AT Conservancy Map notes that this area is the approximate southern limit of glaciation along the AT during the last ice age.  I can only imagine what force it took to move any of these rocks. Betsy took my photo as I sat on the first ledge overlooking a big drop off.

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The trail then involved larger boulder scrambling along the edge of this overlook. Although this scrambling used more leg muscles and sometimes both hands as well, our footfalls did not end upon pointy rocks. I knew we had only about one hour left in our hike. We started a small descent, had a 9/10ths of a mile walk along a gravelly fire break type path where we enjoyed the width and composition of the trail.

After a brief hike along a few more pointy rocks with some softer pine needle laden paths, we arrived at the kiosk for the trail head at the Route 191 AT crossing in Fox Gap.

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I drove Betsy back to her car in Wind Gap and I started the ride back to New York with one stop planned. Near the Rte. 191 AT crossing is a gigantic Adirondack Chair perched on top of an overlook. I was lucky a couple was taking photos so I used their camera to photograph them and they reciprocated for me. If you look closely to the bottom left photo you can see a person who is standing just to the left of the chair. The view to the valley below was beautiful. To give you some scale as to the size of the chair, I am 6′ 3 1/2″ tall. You literally had to climb up and into this chair.

Thank you Betsy for persevering through another rocky section of PA. I have now hiked a total of 180.1 miles on the AT [89.8 in NY(completed), 43.8 in CT, 30.7 in NJ and 15.8 in PA.

More hikes to plan, but first, some Vitamin I (ibuprophen that is).